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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Your dentist loves HB 1212 but here's why you shouldn't

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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House Bill 1212 is an appalling piece of special-interest legislation, a back-room deal designed to weaken consumer-protection rights.

HB 1212 would take away public access to most records of consumer complaints filed against certain state-licensed professionals, such as dentists and real estate agents. Only complaints that have been resolved would be available; other complaints under investigation now listed online would be kept secret from consumers who might want to learn more about the businesses they might hire.

What's worse, the bill was handled to bypass public input. It was resurrected from the 2009 session, sent straight to conference committee without public hearings or testimony, and approved by both houses of the Legislature yesterday.

It's no wonder that people distrust lawmakers and the political process.

The state should not be abetting the withholding of information from consumers, especially on behalf of businesses that operate with state-issued licenses. The public has a right to know about every complaint the state is investigating.

Arguments that frivolous complaints can mar a professional's reputation or violate privacy rights have little merit. Only complaints that the state deems worthy of investigation are posted. The information provided is basic, little more than the nature of the complaint and its disposition. Nonetheless, such information can be useful for a consumer who wants to see if, and why, others have gone through the trouble of filing a formal complaint especially if there are a lot of complaints, or are about a specific issue.

We see no reason why legislators would support such an obvious piece of anti-consumer legislation, but we know why they would want to keep it under wraps.

It's an election year.